2022 Economic Census: The growing contribution of support services to U.S. agricultural production

Vertical bar chart comparing number of establishments and receipts for agricultural services in 1978 and 2022.

U.S. farms have increasingly relied on agricultural services establishments to undertake production activities, such as soil preparation, planting, harvesting, livestock breeding, providing farm workers, and managing operations, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2022 Economic Census. From 1978 to 2022, establishments in the agricultural services sector in the United States saw a 263-percent increase in the value of their receipts (adjusted for inflation to 2022 dollars), from about $16.3 billion to $59.3 billion. For comparison, the inflation-adjusted value of receipts from farms increased 12 percent over the same period when compared with recently released farm data from USDA’s 2022 Census of Agriculture. Although the contribution of agricultural services providers to the farm economy has grown, the number of active establishments declined over the same period. There were 10 percent fewer establishments in 2022 than in 1978, according to the Economic Census. The increased concentration within agricultural services is a phenomenon that has also been documented for farms—the number of farms fell 23 percent between 1978 and 2022, from about 2.5 million to 1.9 million. Researchers are able to describe these important trends because, for the first time since 1978, the 2022 Economic Census includes data on businesses that provide agricultural support services. USDA, Economic Research Service researchers supported those efforts to resume data collection of agricultural services and are collaborating with Census Bureau staff on future data releases based on survey responses. For more information on the U.S. farm sector, see the ERS topic page Farm Economy, last updated in September 2023.

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